Skip to main content

tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  September 6, 2014 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT

5:00 pm
the world. talk to al jazeera, featuring the edge of 18 is next. check out our website, >> i got shot five times. >> just because you are pregnant doesn't mean anything. >> take this curse off of me. >> it's the latest project from film maker alex gibny. he won an oscar for taxi to the
5:01 pm
darkside about american torture. >> the idea is that you don't inflict pain on people when you have them in your custody, and you certainly don't expect to get the truth when you do so. >> throughout his career, the documentarian says he has been misled a lot. among the best liars, the subject of this film. >> part of the armstrong story is that he created a lie that was so beautiful that we all wanted to believe it. >> abuse of power is a theme that's a constant in gibney's films. he invest investigated corruption on wall street and corporate america. >> you tell a little lie and bigger and bigger. >> that's what happened in enron 2. >> a movie about sinatra? >> his gift as a singer. his cruelty. >> i spoke to the producer when he was finishing up "edge of 18." this was a phenomenal idea to come up with this incredibly diverse group of students from all over the country to document
5:02 pm
their last year, actually, their last semester in high school. how did you think about it? >> actually, they documented it, themselves. >> that's one of the things that makes it so powerful, the idea we can see it a moment in time when these kids are on the verge of adulthood who take stock not only of them as human beings but a sense of our coun country and educational system at this key moment in time. >> it tells a lot of important american stories because you have this tremendous diversity. it's ethnically, geographically, religiously and all incredible, to run down a few of the characters. an asian american girl who struggles to figure out whether to put dance over academics, a firebrand white evangelical struggling with his parents about whether to be a preacher or to go to arkansas tech tour school, a couple of latinos, one is undocumented. another is gay, a pregnant girl from the south, an
5:03 pm
african-american boy who is struggling with the silence of the south side of chicago and the presents of drugs. how did you find these kids? >> the search went out. we sent messages to schools and groups all over the country. you know, we look at hundreds of kids and just ultimately boiled it down to 15 that we found to be compelling and that represented the diversity that is the country. we sought out characters that would be interesting and celebrate the diversity we are looking for. the stories were very much driven by the kids. >> that's kind of the way we wanted it. i think you would have expected it in a scenario like this is kids with cameras and talking a lot about their relationships. but these kids, what was interesting was the stories they dhoez tell were powerful and important stories about -- about gay and lesbian rights, about education, about ambition, and about relimigion and the separation of church and state.
5:04 pm
they sound so big and grand as we talk about them in these abstract phrases but to see these kids go through them, that was so poignant and emotional and it came from them. >> you find out how kids can't afford to get into the main college they want to go to. illegal immigration, body i am alan, kids being raised by their grandparents, urban crime, drugs. the lits goes on and on. billying, military service. >> we are asking a lot of our kids. we are putting them in situations where they are having to be adults very quickly at a very young age and it's impressive to see how they are reckoning with that. it's poignant and i think, you know, emotional for us to see them going through this. >> our high school experiences have a lot to do with how we end up as adults. how did your high school experience shape you? >> came from a pretty privileged family, you know, i went to private schools. you know, i had what would be considered a kind of elite education. i think, you know, the teachers
5:05 pm
i met propelled me to try to think big. we talked all the time about the enormous importance of an education and how it's so critical, particularly in this day and time when everything is so technologically oriented and 40% of the kids who would be great can't go to the college that they want to go to because they can't afford it. >> yeah. it's very sad. you spoke about how you trained them or how they became documentarians, themselves. how did you train them. >> there are 15 kids. we brought them all to new york. this whole process had been guided by a wonderful producer named amy kone. we put them in a class for a weekend. we had some of the best documentary film makers, teaching them about camera, about editing, and i think that the big thing that they came away with, the cameras that we gave them are not recording devices. they are story telling devices.
5:06 pm
it's like if you want to be a great rider, pay attention to the number 2 pencil you have but feel what it feels like. some of the greatest riders would type over novels we loved. think of these cameras as story telling tools. you are going to tell your own story. so think about how you do that, how you shoot, what kind of things you shoot, what background, you know, where you are with the camera and what that means so that you use the tools to convey the kind of emotional experience you are feeling. >> what you did was that they do then tell those stories in the first person. you don't have a narrator get f can in between? >> we had crews that would go and sometimes get establishing shots. sometimes get dailies that the kids couldn't be in or in certain key instances would be a second camera for a scene in which the kid was actually involved. so to kind of give a broader
5:07 pm
since of context really but the main thrust of the stories were shot by the kids, themselves. too, the idea of video self i recognizebies was very important and we talked to them about that. they set up the camera in front of themselves. it's a video diary. they speak to the camera that. turned out to be a very powerful too like a written diary. it brings out something that you don't really always expect when you are just by yourself talking to the camera. >> it's interesting that it brings something out to them but brings out something in the viewer because it let's you connect to the character, to the person, real person who is telling you these stories. >> that's right. >> because they are looking you right in the eye. how do you think the presence of the camera influenced them then? do you think it shaped their stories in any way, that it changed things? >> i think if we are honest, we have to say the camera always changes things a little bit. einstein would have said perspective is vital and important in figuring out, you
5:08 pm
know, what reality is. so, yeah. sure. the camera changes things. i think, also, you know, having thought about what the camera means and how it can be a story atelling tooling t i think it em poushd the kids to think about the stories around them and really en gauge nem ways that they might not have outside done. it was like thinking, i have this powerful tool that i am using. i need to find stories that are worthy of it, not just, you know put the camera on my forehead and walk around. >> i showed up twice in the first two episodes i got to see. it is powerful. from your standpoint, as a documentarian, this must have been a nightmare? >> a tremendous a lot of video being created. >> the coordination. >> correct and the coordination and keeping in touch. that's where army and her team were so great in terms of not being over bearing, just staying in touch and helping kids draw their own stories out. so, it
5:09 pm
was a kind of roving group led by am that was really designed to enable as things were going along, and that was the hardest part. you don't want to be too heavy handed or too hands off. i think one of the most pointian things that came up is that these kids are powerful. they are very emotionally engaged. but there is no doubt at this moment in the nair lives, they need a lot of help but in delicate ways, you know, not over bearing help or we are going to do it but perhaps you might have thought about the this or what about this? to help guide them. because it's a moment when they are about to be on their own but not quite ready to be. >> did you expect to tell so many different american stories? i reported for most states in this country. i thought i had a handle on america. i am learning in just the first hour and a half of what you put on camera. >> to me, that was the invigorating thing. people asked what's the one
5:10 pm
thing this says about this new generation? i think the exciting thing about this is it doesn't say just one thing. the idea is there are so many unexpected kids. the firebrand young preacher. no expect to see that or at least i am not as familiar with it. >> i wasn't either. >> there weren't amount of preachers in my 7 ario class in high school. and then you see somebody like maurice who is reckoning with, you know, his neighborhood in the south side of chicago, very tough neighborhood. see the pull, don't go to college. you can get a good job as a janitor, get some cash. have some fun. don't go to college and the anxiety of him wanting to be with that group and yet somehow knowing that there is a bigger, better life out there if he is ambitious. so, it was stunning to me to see all of that. vashti, the undocumented girl, you know, whose parents are
5:11 pm
actually want to keep her very tight. not surprising. she is undocumented they are in a kind of hostile environment yet they want to be here. >> she is looking at going out of state. >> she is looking at going out of state, which they are resisting and ironically, she gets to a point where she can get in to arizona state university, but because she is undocumented, even though she is in arizona, she is not considered local. so she has to pay full freight. so these kind of odd twists and ironies, context of these kids very forcefully moving forward, advocating for themselves is very inspiring. >> coming up, we will be back with alex gibney to look at the rekurning themes from the u.s. government to the catholic church, the military a, enron and even lance armstrong. when "talk to al jazeera" returns. >> on the stream, >> tuition assistance was a big incentive for high school
5:12 pm
grads to enter the military, but now that much of it's gone away, can the military compete? >> the stream, on al jazeera america
5:13 pm
sgloofrnlings. this is "talk to al jazeera. i am antonio mora. my guest is alex gibney. >> aside from "edge of 18" you
5:14 pm
are out with finding fellow about an african musician, a child of privilege, also, who ended up becoming. it brings up a theme that i think recurs in much of your work, power and challenging that power. why is that so important to you? >> i don't know. clearly something motivates me in that way. i mean i get angry when i see people abusing power. with power comes responsibility. when people abuse that power, it turns a crank in me. it makes me want to, you know, say something, speak out. >> it goes back to your first documentary, a ruling classroom which looked at a] classroom where a teacher decided to create his own little mini state in his classroom and sigh what happened with the kids and how that just very quickly
5:15 pm
we want south in all sorts of bad ways from corruption to crime in a classroom. >> then they got a lesson in real power when the teacher came in and shut down the class because two girls had written an article about a real teacher slapping a student. suddenly the real power came in and taught them what power was about. we are shutting this experiment down. >> like a military coup? >> too much free speech. >> an important film "taxi to the darkside" which won you an oscar from dick cheney's infamous quote about combatting islamic extremism that would lead us to have to go to the dark side. it focused on an afghan cab driver captured by american forces, was tortured, ended up dying in captivity even though there was no indication he had any affiliation to al-qaeda. today, the issues that are brought up by that movie are still being discussed. >> i think one of the interesting things that happened is that particularly in terms of that movie, the issues you can see we're still fighting over,
5:16 pm
the senate is desperately trying to declassify a report that they did on the entire american torture program and it is being viciously resisted by the cia which wants to burn issue's reputation and prevent a thorough going history from being told. so, it's interesting the way that stories end up being terribly important because if we are to move forward, we have to understand where we have been, and there is a determination it seems on the part of the powerful who will be embarrassed to prevent those important stories from being told. >> that's very current, right up to date. >> i am surprised, though, they are still debating the issue of torture, that there is still such a large percentage of the american public thinks under certain circumstances it's still okay if it means saving american
5:17 pm
lives? >> i am still shocked. mostly i think it hasto with poor education. the fact is pro-torture campaign led by dick cheney and so many others has just been led in order to vindicate themselves. there is absolutely no valuable literature that shows that torturing people gets the goods. in fact, many of the techniques that were used by the cia, so-called waterboarding and other techniques were he ctechns that we adopted from russians and they use those techniques not to gain the truth but to try to use for political purposes to get false confessions for political purposes. now what does that tell you about torture? and there is a whole host of military personnel, particularly high-ranking generals who are furious about this. they know it degrades moral. it undermines discipline and is adverse fundamentally to the most conveyed american values.
5:18 pm
this goes bag to the magna carta and habeas corpus. the idea is that you don't inflict pain on people when you have them in your custody. and you certainly don't expect to get the truth when you do so. >> another theme that seems to pop up frequently in your work is the obsession with winning at all costs. you look at enron, one of your more popular films, at what happened at enron, crazy corruption and what goes on some rogue american corporations and casino jack about jack abramoff, the former lobbiest who wound you have going to jail and in "catching hell" looks at steve bartman, the guy who went for the foul ball at the cubs game and people unfairly blamed for somehow continuing the cruising. and buckner so that it that's
5:19 pm
correct many more years before the boston red sox ended their drought of winning world series. >> that's particularly an american issue? >> i don't know. i think some are. some are universal issues. you know, it was fun about "catching hell," we talked about the scapegoat in that and trace truck driver back to biblical times when, you know, people used to drive literally out of to that was supposed to be i am pewed by all of the sins of the community. but i became interested in scapegoating precisely because of "taxi to the dark side." you know, the excuse about ab abu ghraib was it was just a few bad apples deflecting that dick cheney had basically set in motion a policy of torture throughout the system. so, i
5:20 pm
became very interested in that idea of scapegoating because it's a way of deflecting. i spoke to jack abramoff and said a lot of people want to make you the one rotten apple. i bet you want to talk about how rotten is the barely? but the justis wouldn't let me talk to him. in the cause of enron, a interest interesting indicates. there is something i think that is fundamentally american which is there is in this counsel, i think, an ethic of win at all costs. if you win, nothing else matters, the bloottom line. i think that's what became interesting about the lance arm strongly story. that was what made him great and made him terrible in moral terms because he would do anything to win. >> he fooled you. your initial movie about armstrong was supposed to be the road back about his comeback. it ended up being the armstrongly.
5:21 pm
you say you had been lied to a lot of times but never as well as by armstrong? >> he is one of the best. i had to make myself a character in the film and be honest and say part of the angstrom story is that he created a lie that was so beautiful that we all wanted to believe it, you know, the cancer survivor who gets back from a near death experience and then wins the tour de france seven times. who doesn't want to believe that story in millions of cancer victims all over the world were deeply inverted in that story. but i think you see in that division to succeed at all costs, ultimately, the lie doesn't matter so much. you 'til a little lie and a bigger one and a bigger one. that's what happened at enlron, 2. they started a little corner cutting here and there. the next thing you knew, the whole company was a fraud. >> thousands of people suffered? >> that's right. >> you looked at the catholic
5:22 pm
church, too. do you think that's what happened there, also. >> i think there is something different that happened there. you are talking about a film. i was interested in that film because i was interested in this group of deaf men who fought back. they had been abused by previously. >> very early on. >> very early on. nobody was listening or interested in hearing. they are deaf men the they have a hard time being heard but they made themselves heard up to the vatican and to the pope. i think the psychological process at work in that film was something called -- the police call noble cause corruption. the idea if you are in a noble or a holy caused if a few kids are hurt, you know, look at all of the good that we do and you begin to haven't yourself there wasn't a problem heand somehow clericalism is more important that the priesthood is more important than the victims because there is a higher calling here sigh how that leads to deep seated corruption because the problem there is
5:23 pm
not, you know, we can recognize that there are predators around us. it's going to happen not only in the church but everywhere else. the big problem with the catholic sex abuse is how that sex abuse was aided and abetted at a cover-up at the top and they would move priests around and never hold them accountable, and they would lie to people about whether or not they had done these things so victims felt shut out. the sub title was silence in the house of god. there was silence by the church and ultimately, it took deaf people, a small group of deaf men to break that sigh lengths. >> a documentary about alex gibney may be in his future. we will talk to him about that whennays returns. deserve justice >> anatomy of a protest... >> ...the police look like they're getting ready to come
5:24 pm
down the street >> with militarized police departments >> forces their message... >> they're actually firing canisters of gas... >> a fractured community demands answers >> what do we want? >> justice! >> when do we want it? >> now! >> faul lines, al jazeera america's hard hitting... >> there blocking the door... >> ground breaking... >> truth seeking... >> we have to get out of here... award winning investigative documentary series... special episode ferguson: city under siege only on al jazeera america
5:25 pm
5:26 pm
you are watching "talk to aringz." i am joined by alex gibney documentary film producer. >> one thing you haven't tackled as much is creativity and artists. now you are going after sinatra, a few hours for hbo. how do you think it will tell the story in a more important than a drama from hollywood? >> it's a real story. it will be narrated. we have access to some fantastic audiotapes of him reflecting on his own life and his life, i think, writ large is also the story of america. >> you know, his is he is the son of immigrants, hoe b hoboke, strife to go get across the river.
5:27 pm
we know about husband gift as a singer, his generosity and his cruelty. all of these things come to bear in a man that embodies the sort of glories of the american dream and occasionally its dark side. >> how has the word of the documentary changed since you started? >> either it's just way bert. one of the inspiring things about the documentary now is that there is a kind of formal innervation and story telling skill all over the world that is awe en spiring. you know, these are, you know, when i grew up, a documentary was, you know, more like a film strip that was somebody with a pointer, you know, showing a number of words on the black board. >> there is an increase in volume. we all have a camera in our pockets. it's become edesy doubt the
5:28 pm
volume is hurting or helping. >> i don't think it ever hurts. i think at the end of the day, a lot of people have pensionels but there are not that many f scott fitzgeralds. it talks even if you have a camera, it takes still to be a story teller. it's one of the things we reckoned with, the difference between the camera as a recording device and a camera as a story telling window. >> as you tell stories about america, are you upper concerned? >> i am concerned about america. i think america at this stage in time is like my friend, e jean dere derecky said we have this sense of what made us, it's like a bloated he wielvis. we have a completely dis functional congress. we have a huge wage disparity, income disparity in this country. our society is pulling apart.
5:29 pm
we have enormous wealth and power and yet we have huge divisions that we are not reckoning with so, yeah, i am de deeply concerned because i think we are coasting as if, you know, if we just say we are great often enough, it will be so but it won't be so. we have to make ourselves great. we have to get back to work. do you think we can overcome. >> absolutely. i think the overcoming is where you see with these kids in "edge of 18," you see so much passion, so much drive, so much creativity, so much determination to make the world better, so hopefully it will save us from ourselves. >> a pleasure to have you with us. >> thank you. pleasure. sim richelle carry. at the top of the hour, president obama pushes the pause burton on a promise. it's delaying action on action on immigration to help out democrats ahead of the election. ukraine accuses separatists of breaking a cease-fire 10 times.
5:30 pm
a political crisis entering the third week. how instability impacts the rest of the region and world you won't hear as many broadcasters saying "washington redskins" as you have in the past. the fight to force the team to change its name. all of that straight ahead. >> hi, i'm lisa fletcher and you are in the stream. are the high school graduates enlists to escape the status quo. hear what gets thousands to join active duty every year. >> separate and unequal education, why the department of education is investigating. what doing what you love might not be the best choice for your career path.